WASHINGTON, D.C., U.S. — In its first 18-state aggregated crop condition report of the spring, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) reported winter wheat condition ratings as of March 31 little changed from the final ratings last fall as the crop was going into dormancy.

Winter wheat was rated 34% good to excellent, 36% fair and 30% poor to very poor as of March 31, compared with 33% good to excellent, 41% fair and 26% poor to very poor as of Nov. 25, 2012. But ratings were well below the initial spring 2012 ratings for the previous year’s crop of 58% good to excellent, 30% fair and 12% poor to very poor.

There were wide variations in crop conditions by state. The condition of the hard red winter wheat crop generally was much worse than the soft red winter wheat crop because the latter was growing in areas where moisture has been more plentiful.

Hard red winter wheat is continuing to face more challenging growing conditions because pockets of extreme drought and widespread areas of inadequate soil moisture that plagued the crop last fall are persisting across much of the growing region as the crop exits dormancy.

For the week ended March 31 most hard red winter wheat states struggled to receive good-to-excellent designations. In Colorado, only 12% of the crop was in good condition, in Nebraska 10% was good and in South Dakota 2% was good; none was in excellent condition in those three states, the USDA said. Good to excellent ratings in top-producing Kansas were 31%, Oklahoma 27%, Texas 16% and Montana 50%.

In contrast, the soft winter wheat states had much higher ratings. The crop in Illinois was rated 68% good to excellent, Indiana 64%, Ohio 56%, Michigan 55%, Missouri 69%, Arkansas 59% and North Carolina 65%. 
Conversely, the states with the highest poor to very poor ratings were the hard red winter states of Colorado with 42%, Nebraska and Texas with 49% and South Dakota with 76%.